Researchers deployed many efforts during the past few decades to develop a suitable mechanical harvester for harvesting wild blueberries. The major problems include irregular topography of the fields, low height of harvestable berries, abundance of weeds and existence of rocks and holes in the fields. The research on mechanical wild blueberry harvesters was started in 1947 by Agricultural Engineering Department of the University of Maine. Soon the development of the mechanical harvester became the top priority project by all connected with the blueberry industry. In 1983 Bragg Lumber Company, Collingwood, N.S., made a commitment to build 20 harvesters for the 1984 season. These machines were considered as the first commercially successful wild blueberry harvesters in North America. 

The mechanically harvested wild blueberry area is more than 80% of the total area in Canada. Improved management practices using selective herbicides, fertilizers, pesticides and pollination have resulted in healthy and tall plants, high plant density, tall weeds and significant increase in fruit yield. Wild blueberry industry is facing increased harvesting losses with the existing harvester due to changes in crop conditions caused by improved management practices emphasizing the need to enhance berry picking efficiency of the harvester. Therefore the objectives of the project were;

  • To develop and evaluate an integrated sensor fusion system to map fruit yield, plant height and topographic features real-time
  • To evaluate the existing commercial wild blueberry harvester for quantification of losses and to identify the factors responsible for losses
  • To modify the harvester components to improve berry picking efficiency